This continues the government's campaign to tackle obesity which was launched after Boris Johnson admitted that he was ‘too fat’, following his battle with the coronavirus. Recent studies have also suggested that the pandemic is responsible for an increase in obesity rates in the UK. Nutritionists have warned that the pandemic has pushed individuals towards “processed food with longer shelf life” — especially those already struggling to cope financially. We spoke with Rochelle Embling, Researcher in Psychology at Swansea University to discuss the rise in obesity, the importance of good nutrition and why it is key for your health and well-being.
Sputnik: So what do we mean when we talk about a balanced diet, and why are we often encouraged to have one?
Rochelle Embling: So it's well known that a healthy diet is important to health and our general well-being. One of the main reasons that we notice this today is because of the rise in problems associated with overweight and obesity. So we know that there is an increase in disease risk that is associated with overweight and obesity. Things like some cancers, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And in lots of data guidelines around the world, it is recommended that as part of a healthy diet, we eat lots of different foods. So we have lots of food variety and this is because different foods provide us with different nutrients. And so even a varied diet can benefit our health by reducing risks associated with malnutrition. Which is when we don't get the right amount of nutrients from our diet. Malnutrition is associated with some nasty symptoms, like weak muscles, decreased mobility, increased illness, etc.
Sputnik: And how vital is it to educate people on the importance of nutrition? Do we see enough of this in the UK?
Rochelle Embling: Yeah, so I think dietary guidelines in the UK are useful. I think we have lots of initiatives in the UK that are all helpful for having a healthy diet. Well, our main recommendation about current dietary guidelines in the UK, is that they are just a little bit more specific. So at the moment, when we hear the word variety, it can be quite difficult to know what this means from the perspective of an everyday consumer. So what we need dietary guidelines to do, is to tell us, what is variety? So we know that variety can be related to things like having foods from different food groups, and this is what they tell us to do, to get this overall balance. But we also know that variety doesn't just refer to having different nutrients from foods, from different food groups. We know that variety can refer to other characteristics, so things like flavour, colour, and texture. And because we know that research has told us that this form of variety can actually impact how much we eat in meals. Then having this additional guidance in dietary guidelines could benefit consumer’s food choices, and benefit their overall health by things like helping us to reach our five a day. So if we look to having more variety in these characteristics, then meals for more nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, then this can benefit our overall health. Whereas we can also help ourselves to avoid overeating and reduce our risk of overeating by using this form of variety. So only two indulgent options that have fewer characteristics, fewer differences in these characteristics. Things like plain chocolate, rather than all these lovely mix chocolates that we get around Christmas time.
Sputnik: I’d like to ask you your opinion on what is often described as fad diets, things like Keto and Atkins, do you have any thoughts about those kinds of fad diets?
Rochelle Embling: These fad diets are just not recommended by an expert or any kind of health professional really. What is recommended is just trying to follow dietary guidelines, trying to follow a healthy diet. We know that this is more likely to be successful as well in the long run. So just trying to eat a healthy, balanced diet and not trying to follow all of these kinds of fad diets.